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Ask Slashdot: What If Intellectual Property Expired After Five Years? 577

Posted by Soulskill
from the many-tears-from-publishers dept.
New submitter ancientt writes "As a thought experiment, what if the constitution of the U.S. was amended so that no idea (with exceptions only for government use, like currency) could be protected from copy or use beyond January 1, 2035 for more than a five-year period. After a five-year span, any patent, software license, copyright, software NDA or other intellectual property agreement would expire. (This is not an entirely new idea, but would have had significant recent ramifications if it had been enacted in the past.) Specific terms are up for debate, but in this experiment businesses must have time to try to adjust to sell services and make the services good enough to compete with other businesses offering the same basic products. Microsoft can sell a five-year-old variant of OSX, Apple can sell Windows 2030. Cars, computers and phones would, or at least could, still be made, but manufacturers would be free to use any technology more than five years old or license new technology for a five-year competitive edge. Movie, TV and book budgets would have to adjust to the potential five-year profit span, although staggered episode or chapter releases would be legal. Play 'What if' with me. What would be the downsides? What would be the upsides?"
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Ask Slashdot: What If Intellectual Property Expired After Five Years?

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  • by AlexBirch (1137019) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @05:30AM (#40014531) Homepage
    Pharmaceuticals would still be in clinical trials when their patents would expire. How about we just focus on getting rid of bad patents that don't bring knowledge or insight to society?
    • by michelcolman (1208008) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @05:32AM (#40014547)

      How about letting patent examiners determine the duration instead of keeping a fixed time for everything? Pharmaceuticals with decade long trial periods would be protected for longer, software patents (like "slide to unlock") only for a few years.

      • by Mindcontrolled (1388007) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @05:41AM (#40014575)
        If you leave the decision to the examiners, you'll just get the effect that each and every applicant will be unhappy with the assigned duration. Result: at least two additional office actions per application debating the correct duration for the patent in question. I am not opposed to different durations for different patent classes, but there have to be clear rules, or it'll be a hell of a mess.
        • I do not mind (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Taco Cowboy (5327) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @05:45AM (#40014607) Journal

          As the sole owner of 3 patents, I do not mind if all my patents expire tomorrow

          At that time I filed my patent for self-protection - not for profiting from the patents

          You see, the world we live today is so fucked up, that if you invent something really brand new and you do not patent it, you just _might_ get sued !

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward

            As the sole owner of 3 patents, I do not mind if all my patents expire tomorrow

            At that time I filed my patent for self-protection - not for profiting from the patents

            You see, the world we live today is so fucked up, that if you invent something really brand new and you do not patent it, you just _might_ get sued !

            That works for you and congratulations. But for others, it's a different story.

            As the GGGP said, there are things that have a long time horizon before one can possibly recoup R&D and other investment costs - many things take much longer than 5 years. And if you factor in a decent ROI that investors will require, I see a lot of ideas never making it to market or even developed because there's very little hope of reouping investment let alone making a return.

            I get the impression from a lot of posts here

            • by Kirth (183)

              Pharmaceuticals: Contrary to what the industry says, a drug does not take 800 million Dollars to develop and test, but only 40 million Dollars.

              • Re:I do not mind (Score:5, Insightful)

                by JasterBobaMereel (1102861) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @07:16AM (#40015259)

                ...and most of the new drugs are small increments on existing drugs , mostly for near terminal conditions that affect mostly rich westerners

                They are in the business of 'inventing' very expensive drugs, because the current patent system encourages this ...

                Without a patent they would be trying to invent cheap large volume drugs instead ?

                • Re:I do not mind (Score:5, Insightful)

                  by arth1 (260657) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @08:08AM (#40015717) Homepage Journal

                  ...and most of the new drugs are small increments on existing drugs , mostly for near terminal conditions that affect mostly rich westerners

                  They are in the business of 'inventing' very expensive drugs, because the current patent system encourages this ...

                  They are in the business to make money. The most money can be made by marketing a drug that does not cure anything, but must be continued to be taken for as long as a person lives. That's their holy grail.

                  Cures are useful for killing their competitor's products, but isn't a golden goose that continues laying eggs.

                  IMO, pharma patent laws should be modified to steer research into what's best for the people, not best for the shareholders. Drop the extended patent terms for anything that isn't curative.

                  • In the case of products with long development cycles (Pharma, Rockets for man rated launch, etc.) make the patent duration two pronged (this could apply to all patents): 5 years from commercial availability or 20 years total, whichever is shorter. Same for (C), 5/20. I realize there is a simple game of the system: don't start selling until 15 years from patent or copyright grant date, but at least it's an improvement on what we have now, and profit incentives will keep this from happening in many cases.
                    Th

                  • by mcgrew (92797) *

                    IMO, pharma patent laws should be modified to steer research into what's best for the people, not best for the shareholders. Drop the extended patent terms for anything that isn't curative.

                    You would have me suffer, because without patent law I wouldn't have Naproxin Sodium, a far better treatment for my arthritis than aspirin. You would have most cancer and HIV patients just die. Yes, a cure would be far better, but for some conditions a cure may be impossible at present levels of science.

            • And if you factor in a decent ROI that investors will require, I see a lot of ideas never making it to market or even developed because there's very little hope of reouping investment let alone making a return.

              With the exception of pharmaceuticals where the vast majority of development cost comes from the necessity of clinical trials to ensure patient safety, most ideas are nothing more than small iterative improvements on older ideas. We don't need huge multinational corporations blowing billions of dollars on R&D to make innovation happen. Shotgun approach (thousands of startups adding small and cheap improvements on top of the same basic idea) works just fine. But you can't have shotgun approach working ne

              • by PopeRatzo (965947)

                With the exception of pharmaceuticals where the vast majority of development cost comes from the necessity of clinical trials to ensure patient safety

                No, the clinical trials do not ensure "patient safety", they ensure deniability for the pharmaceutical company. "But it was approved!", they will say, and, "Our clinical trials showed it was safe!" when their product is shows to be poisonous.

                The system we have of developing treatments for disease is about as corrupt and wrongheaded as it could be. It encoura

            • Re:I do not mind (Score:5, Insightful)

              by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @09:00AM (#40016259) Homepage Journal

              As the GGGP said, there are things that have a long time horizon before one can possibly recoup R&D and other investment costs - many things take much longer than 5 years. And if you factor in a decent ROI that investors will require, I see a lot of ideas never making it to market or even developed because there's very little hope of reouping investment let alone making a return.

              A greater argument for the socialization of pharmaceuticals, I have not heard.

              If the government were in charge of the pharmaceutical industry, there would be no need for a "decent ROI," nor would there be incentive to "treat" illness as opposed to cure it.

              Not-so-funny aside there - I can't understand these folks who actually believe that a for-profit drug manufacturer has any interest whatsoever in curing diseases they currently make billions off 'treating.'

              • by Zordak (123132)

                If the government were in charge of the pharmaceutical industry, there would be no need for a "decent ROI," nor would there be incentive to "treat" illness as opposed to cure it.

                You're right. Instead, there would be an incentive for politicians to give huge, lucrative contracts to their buddies that they are in bed with, either literally or figuratively, and for those buddies to inflate their bids on those contracts to absurd levels. Because contractors would be focusing on landing the most pre-approved pork projects, they wouldn't agressively seek out the most effective drugs. After all, they get paid whether the drug works or not. The important thing is to keep the pork rolling i

          • As the sole owner of 3 patents, I do not mind if all my patents expire tomorrow

            I sure wish you'd enforce your patens on MyCleanPC and GameMaker posts. That would stop those posts for sure ;-)

          • Re:I do not mind (Score:5, Interesting)

            by usuallylost (2468686) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @06:50AM (#40015065)

            You see, the world we live today is so fucked up, that if you invent something really brand new and you do not patent it, you just _might_ get sued !

            In my mind this and the proliferation of, at best, highly questionable patents is the real problem. I don't see a huge problem with the duration of patents. In part because some really innovative technologies, medications for example, cost billions of dollars to develop and the time to recoup that investment is going to be longer than five years.

            The duration of copyrights on the other hand are absolutely obscene. Even there five years is really short. I think the danger with such a short term would be that it would empower large corporations to some degree. After all other companies have the resources to go out there and compete head to head even if there is no copyright. The small content creator, without a major corporation behind him, is basically forced to try and compete in a wide open market. My guess is the small creator would just get crushed if anything he made caught the eye of a major company.

            I think the real problem is that patents and copyrights have been corrupted. Both are good ideas and encourage people to invent and create things. The problem is they've both been corrupted to the benefit of a few entrenched interests. Copyrights in particular bear little resemblance to what they were supposed to be. I mean the whole point of them was to encourage people to create things so that the public domain would be enriched. Now they've become a tool for the virtual destruction of the public domain. Which is clearly not what was intended.

            • "In my mind this and the proliferation of, at best, highly questionable patents is the real problem."

              I think the whole idea you can get rid of 'fallacious patents' is questionable given the long history of governments cocksucking of special interests.

              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright_Term_Extension_Act [wikipedia.org]

            • Re:I do not mind (Score:4, Interesting)

              by cpt kangarooski (3773) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @08:05AM (#40015677) Homepage

              Really appropriate copyright duration depends on the work, and really the author. Five years may be too short for a movie or certain books, but it is too long for a daily newspaper or game show episode. And any copyright at all is too long for the vast majority of posts on the Internet.

              What copyright really needs is a return to an opt-in system: unpublished works (where publication is defined more broadly than at present) might have a minimal, relatively short-lived automatic copyright to protect authors from having their manuscripts pirated while they prepare a work for publication. Published works, especially if they're published simultaneously or nearly so, as they're created (e.g. a live broadcast), might get a short grace period to get registered. But generally, published works should have to be registered by the author to get a copyright; it should be an affirmative claim, not automatic. Thusly most works will be in the public domain straight away because the author doesn't care about a copyright enough to seek one out. (It shouldn't be hard to get one, either, though not so trivial that it requires no thought at all) Authors that do care, will get them, presumably. Then add in annual renewals up to the maximum length (which might differ per class of work) so as to assess whether the copyright holder still cares or not. Failure to care about a works copyright as evidenced by a failure to register or renew a work is a good reason to not have it be copyrighted.

      • by SeaFox (739806) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @05:46AM (#40014615)

        How about letting patent examiners determine the duration instead of keeping a fixed time for everything?

        That would just lead to companies bribing patent examiners and the whole system would be corrupted.

      • by rmstar (114746) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @05:49AM (#40014641)

        How about letting patent examiners determine the duration instead of keeping a fixed time for everything?

        My personal opinion on this is that, to fix the issues around patenting of pharmaceuticals, the best is to devise a new system to substitute the one based on patents. I think it would be preferable for the state to grant monopolies after the fact. Maybe using some auction system, maybe something else. Once a possible drug has been determined as being promising, the state could contract someone to do the clinical trial, or perhaps even do it itself through funding for universities, or other organizations. Of course, this rises the specter of corruption and so on, but i think it is likely that such a system could be engineered to work a lot better than the existing one.

        This type of system already exists in other areas. Nuclear plants in most countries are owned by the state and operated by private companies. Similar arrangements exist for the production of explosives and some poisonous substances. Mining is another classic example of such a type of system.

        As things stand nowadays, the best way of sinking a promising therapy is to publish the details unpatented. This is a ridiculous state of affairs, and could be fixed by a scheme like the one above. Also, since patents expire without anything to mitigate the effects, there is an incentive to invent nonexistent illnesses and useless drugs, a behavior which is itself dangerous to public health.

      • by arth1 (260657) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @05:52AM (#40014681) Homepage Journal

        How about letting patent examiners determine the duration instead of keeping a fixed time for everything? Pharmaceuticals with decade long trial periods would be protected for longer, software patents (like "slide to unlock") only for a few years.

        I think that's a bad idea that just opens up for corruption and more lawyer work.

        How about "15 years from filing or 5 years from licensing or first unit shipped, whichever comes first"?

        • by arth1 (260657)

          How about "15 years from filing or 5 years from licensing or first unit shipped, whichever comes first"?

          I hadn't had coffee when I wrote this. It would be counter-productive, as it would reward patent hoarders, not patent users, and lead to even more patent trolls and defensive patents.

          It might be better if it was 5 years (or even less), but companies could file for yearly extensions if unreleased and they can document that the patent is being actively developed. A "use it or lose it" clause, so to speak.

    • I misread that and started wondering then why reduced patent length would lead to reduced patient life expectancy. Then I wondered why pharmaceutical companies would have patients at all. After re-reading it, I'm a little upset that I misread and got patients expire but bad patents came through ok. I guess I'm not used to reading about patents expiring :(
      • by wisty (1335733)

        It would probably result in *horrendously* expensive drugs while they are still under patent, and less expensive drugs the rest of the time.

        It would also result in a few less drugs (as healthcare would become cheaper, so big pharma would have less to spend on R&D, and doctor "education"), but the extra money could be spent on more leisure, or non-pharmaceutical treatments (stomach staples?).

    • by tao (10867) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @05:46AM (#40014613) Homepage
      Then how about 5 years from clinical approval?
    • by jamesh (87723) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @05:49AM (#40014645)

      Pharmaceuticals would still be in clinical trials when their patents would expire. How about we just focus on getting rid of bad patents that don't bring knowledge or insight to society?

      I had the same thought about the pharaceuticals. Even non-pharmaceuticals can have a long time-to-market once the patent has been filed.

      A better idea would be (say) 20 years from filing or 5 years from the date of first sale, whichever is sooner. 20 years might be a bit generous... I don't know the specifics of clinical trial durations, but just a date so you couldn't just sit on the patent forever.

      With a 5 year duration, the 'bad patent' thing would probably solve itself.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by FilthCatcher (531259)
      Lots more things take more than 5 years to create.

      Without the protection of copyright there would just be more secrets - you can't copy information you don't have.
      The protections/limitations (depending upon your point of view) of GPL would disappear too.
      Most software development would switch to cloud-based services so that all code stays within the company and no software gets distributed.
    • by flyneye (84093)

      I think pharmaceutical companies can ride these rails too. Let's not allow patenting of unfinished products, not tested , not finished.
      The downside of taking patents/copyrights down five years; foolish businesses who built their model on patent/copy rather than product will suffer.
      But at least they provide an example/warning for that kind of wrongheaded crap.
      The upside, we can finally make some progress,hell, maybe go back to leading as an innovator. We can finally be done with this f**king mess we've all b

    • by fearofcarpet (654438) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @06:05AM (#40014775)

      How about we just focus on getting rid of bad patents that don't bring knowledge or insight to society?

      ...because this is a thought experiment about enacting a hard limit on the protection of intellectual property.

      If the five-year clock started ticking when the product was brought to market--i.e., after development and clinical trials--it would circumvent the long lead-time for drugs. The most common argument against reducing the lifetime of drug patents is that the cost would go up and/or that no one would make drugs anymore because the profit margins would be too low and/or innovation would be stifled as "talent" (used to describe MBAs, not PhDs) migrated to more lucrative businesses. I find the latter arguments absurd, much like their cousin, the argument in favor of ridiculously high executive compensation.

      Personally I think that five years of the exclusive right to sell is plenty if the composition of matter and other broad drug patents don't change. They allow a company to make minor structural changes, perhaps even something as simple as the counter ion of the protonated form that is packaged for sale, and then re-brand as a new "gotta have it" drug while simultaneously preventing others from selling less-closely related structural analogs. If the patents timed out five years after the drugs went to market, then drug companies would have to rely on marketing and quality assurance instead of lawsuits. It would also allow competitors to start exploring derivatives of a break-through drug much sooner, which would in principle lead to better drugs over all in the same way that the free sharing of results rapidly accelerated semiconductor technology in the early part of the Cold War.

      When faced with any disruptive technology or shift in public policy, the arguments pretty much go the same way. Con: time-tested business models will become obsolete, storied corporations will go out of business, the lack of competition will drive prices up, innovation will be stifled--things will be much different than they are now and that is bad. Pro: time-tested business models will have to be re-thought, storied corporations will give way to fast-growing newcomers, competition will drive prices down, innovation will abound--things will be much different than they are now and that is good. Current examples include the film, financial, and health insurance industries. Past examples include the telephone, automobile, and airline industries. I think that you can take any of those as examples supporting either the pro or con position, depending on whether or not you like change.

    • Actually, pharmaceutical patents would do well to disappear. Promising drugs get ditched because they can't recoup the investment. All they produce are "treatments". There is no monetary interest in finding cures even if cures were possible through medication. A patient who never heals but can survive many long years is more profitable than one who cures. Governments would save money to finance research in those areas instead of financing the purchasing of patented drugs.

      So I would think that the 5 year pe

  • Five-year-plan, eh? Why not? Might make progress come even quicker.

  • yep, copyright would work as intended.

    you'd have more money for whatever.

    you'd have less business as a media mogul just selling the same old crap again and again.

    you could cover beatles songs for free.

    you'd have much more easier time creating new music, new interpretations.

    • by rufty_tufty (888596) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @06:09AM (#40014787) Homepage

      Okay, let's be a nasty person and game the system.
      I've just had a new author come to me with pretty good kids book. Let's call her K L Moss. Her first book is well received but nothing special. A year later she comes back with book 2. That does significantly better. The first print run sells out immediately(I intentionally did a small one to minimise my risks). I then start a year long publicity campaign on books 1 & 2. Book 1 is now 3 years old.
      By the time book 3 is ready I decide that it will first have a good year of publicity and excerpts published in small chunks to build up anticipation. Now I'm selling books as fast as I can print them.
      By the time book 4 is ready copyright has expired on book 1. It's not really worth anyone else printing book 1 as its available on e-readers for free. No-one else will make a deal with Ms Moss under better terms for book 5 because they can't do the group deal for books 2-4. I can negotiate Ms Moss down to almost nothing. I can keep printing book 1 and pay her nothing.

      Under such a short copyright term I can only see ways to screw over authors it sems to me that they will suffer more than the publishers. Also IMO you want profitable publishers so that they can afford to take a risk on new authors. If they become more risk averse that will be bad for authors and the public domain.

      A much simpler first step would just to be to say that companies cannot own copyright only people. That copyright then expires on their death. Copyright is not transferable(although the royalties could be). That would then prevent the CEO/founder of the company owning all the copyright.

      I say all this in the knowledge that my job is to produce copyrighted/secret code. Under the current system the company owns this code and will forever because they employed me to write it. However that code has a halflife of about 2 years because technology marches on and others innovate along with us. So producing something once will almost certainly not make you set for life. It's worth groking why Ms Moss effectively gets more protection in that regard than I do.

      • by chrb (1083577)

        No-one else will make a deal with Ms Moss under better terms for book 5 because they can't do the group deal for books 2-4.

        Assuming for the moment that this is correct (which is doubtful), how is this different from the existing system? Once a publisher has the rights to a book, they are under no obligation to give them back if later books are more successful.

      • 12 years copyright protection with an option to extend to 24 by paying for the privelege should be plenty.

      • by jonnythan (79727)

        Companies can't own copyright, only people?

        That would certainly be interesting. You would inevitably concentrate things like highly valuable corporate IP to a single person - and give all of that company's competitors serious motive to eliminate that person.

        Imagine if Steve Jobs held copyright on all the crucial elements of iOS or OS X or whatever. Or if Larry Page was the copyright holder for all of Google's IP. Do you think Microsoft may have had him killed by now?

      • by wrook (134116) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @07:35AM (#40015403) Homepage

        Authors can, and do, change publishers midstream in a series.

        In your example, publisher A decides to short change Ms. Moss on book 5. Ms. Moss moves to publisher B. Publisher B can print book 5 and beyond, and book 1. They get Ms. Moss to modify book 1 slight to make an "updated" version. They also add a "World of PooperLand" appendix which describes never before revealed details about the setting of the story. Finally, for a couple grand they hire an artist to make a set of illustrations for the book. They re-brand the entire thing and push it out the door 1 month before publishing book 5. Then, every year, on the dot, they publish updated versions of books 2-4 with the new illustrations and further insights into PooperLand. By the time they get to book 4, book 7 (the last of the series) is just about to be released and they make yet a new boxed set that includes an exclusive 1-month early version of book 7, for only $500.

        Meanwhile publisher A is sitting on books 2-4 and can try to blackmail Ms. Moss by refusing to sell them, hoping the scare her back to the fold. But this just creates a demand for these books that publisher B can exploit every year. So instead, they simply sell as many as they can and when the copyright ends, try to flood the market with free stuff. But they can't hope to compete against publisher B because every true PooperFan (AKA "Brown Pants") knows that publisher A is in league with the devil.

        No problem.

    • by flyneye (84093)

      Music is the one thing, I think could be best protected by not calling it I.P. at all.
      Music and intangibles should have NO protection and should be shared by the world to prevent parasitic business models from becoming a disease to them.
      For instance.musicians could actually make a living playing live and promoting themselves by givng away their music. Talented musicians who weren't writers would make money just playing anyones tunes. The shift towards rewarding talent rather than ownership would have the ef

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Technology and media companies would quickly wither away and, consequently, science and art will die.

    • by Kergan (780543)

      Why so? The past 15 years offer plenty of examples of businesses being built on top of copyleft, artists distributing their music on the Internet, etc. As for science, most researchers would rather see their work more widely available, not less.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @05:35AM (#40014559)

    On patents:

    All but the richest biggest incumbents would benefit

    On copyright:

    Large publishers and the copyright dinosaur industries would have to change for the better, society would benefit.

    Some small companies and individuals would benefit massively from more freely being able to build upon the work of others.
    Some small companies and individuals would suffer as large corporations would find new ways of screwing them over.

    On trademarks:

    It makes no sense to expire trademarks after 5 years. Society as a whole would suffer.

  • by maroberts (15852) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @05:35AM (#40014563) Homepage Journal

    Whether this is a downside or an upside is up to you.....

    I don't think 5 years is a long enough period for film development and recovery of costs. I do think 15-20 years, perhaps with a 10 year extension on payment of a fee would do it though.

    • by neyla (2455118)

      I agree, 5 is likely below optimum for many classes of works. On the other hand the current bullshit of Life of author + 70 years is insane, if you write a book when you're 25, and live to 85, that amounts to 130 years of protection.

      10 years from publication, or 15 from creation, whichever is shorter sounds about sane to me. The precise term is debatable, but I've never seen -anyone- arguing that creative work would suffer if the current 100+ years where reduced substantially.

    • by chrb (1083577)
      5 years is plenty for normal movies. The thing with JK Rowling is that she didn't set out to make movies, or even to write movie scripts. She wrote books, and under a 5 year copyright term, she would've profited handsomely from those books and still become a millionaire. After 5 years, anyone would have been free to make a movie version of her books, which, in the end, could benefit society - movies that are not possible to make now, because the rights can't be acquired, would become possible to make.
      • by Andy_R (114137)

        I think the consequence of the thought experiment would be that we'd start attaching equivalent value to official endorsements. While anyone could make a Harry Potter film, JK Rowling would still be able to sell the right to call just one of them the official one, and use her name in the title, the advertising, etc. I'm not convinced that this would be a bad thing. Studios would be kept on their toes by competitors, and authors would actually have some weight to throw around when it matters, rather than whe

    • by Spacejock (727523)
      Four of my novels were published between 2005 and 2008. I still make a small amount of money off them - enough that my wife and daughters have enough to eat, for example. Yes, I'm writing more novels, and yes I do supplement my income with school visits, contract programming, google adsense, odd jobs, ebook conversions and anything else (legal) I can think of, but those novels were only really published locally (I'm in Australia) and haven't had a chance at finding a big overseas audience yet. If some entit
    • by camperdave (969942) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @08:35AM (#40015987) Journal
      Copyright is a dollar down and double each successive year. You can keep it as long as you can make the payments. Most would keep the copyrights for around 10 years (the cost would then be $1024), but by year 20 it is up to $1,048,576. Most would drop the copyright protection before this point. By the time year 30 rolls around, the copyright would cost over a billion dollars.
  • Logos and trademarks (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sosume (680416) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @05:37AM (#40014567) Journal

    Not very likely, since copyright on logos and trademarks would also expire, for example the Windows or Apple logo. Imagine that everyone would be able to create a 100% clone of any given product after 5 years! They should create categories instead. 10 years seems to be so much more reasonable.

    • by a_n_d_e_r_s (136412) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @05:44AM (#40014601) Homepage Journal

      Trademarks are not copyrighted they are trademarked. There is no time limit on trademarks.

    • by dkf (304284)

      Not very likely, since copyright on logos and trademarks would also expire, for example the Windows or Apple logo. Imagine that everyone would be able to create a 100% clone of any given product after 5 years! They should create categories instead. 10 years seems to be so much more reasonable.

      Trademarks can expire very rapidly; they only protect while the mark is being actively used and defended. They're also always non-functional in all respects other than to identify the company doing the selling or product being sold. Because they're always non-functional, they're not a problem unless you're insisting on confusing consumers (generally a scummy thing to do!)

      Other forms of IP have problems though: with patents the problem has been that far too many obvious things have been patented and it's gum

    • A thought experiment about trademarks being undefendable would be even more interesting.

      First of all, ads would become pointless.

      Then, consumer would have to check the product or trust the issuer. How do you check the quality of food, electronics? unwieldy. So there would rise up a class of middlemen whose only asset is trust.

      It would be a step backwards, but I'm not sure that we progressed in the right direction regarding the dominion of symbols over minds. They made a lot of sense when producers were huma

    • by Andy_R (114137)

      In a probably vain attempt to stop this being misquoted, please permit me to start by shouting: I DO NOT THINK TRADEMARKS SHOULD EXPIRE unless the company that holds them closes down without selling them on, or the person that owns them dies with no heirs.

      Thank you.

      Right, on to actually talking about the idea... Trademark law is there to protect the manufacturer, not the purchaser. If we did abolish trademarks WHICH WE SHOULDN'T then consumer protection law would still do pretty much the same thing. Apple c

    • Logos are not protected by copyright but trademarks, right? As long as you use it as a trademark, you can have a clain on it. Of course IANAL

  • by Eaglehawk (203548) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @05:42AM (#40014583)

    I think the time of the patent, software license, copyright, software NDA or other intellectual property should relate to it's "impact".

    eg. Swipe to unlock. Length: About 10 secs. Hoverboard. Length: 10 years.

    I would have suggested relating it to the cost of discovery, but there's some things that would not have cost much, but the impact would be huge. I'm sick of these "obvious" patents being awarded to companies, but make them last only a short period might reduce the companies from submitting silly patents.

  • Windows XP (Score:4, Funny)

    by SeaFox (739806) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @05:45AM (#40014603)

    You would have been able to use Windows legally without paying while it was still the "current" OS from Redmond.

    • by Andy_R (114137)

      So you're saying that Microsoft would have an incentive to improve their software more frequently. Is there a downside?

  • Microsoft can sell a five-year-old variant of OSX, Apple can sell Windows 2030.

    The interesting thing about your thought experiment wouldn't be selling an existing product, but being able to implement some features into our own products without being afraid of stepping on just another patent.

    But don't limit this move to a single nation or continent; try to make it global: the advancements in all areas would be great, and the majority of people would take great benefit. No holding back or artificial price inf

  • Why 2035? Let's do it right now!
  • by psychonaut (65759) <psychonaut@nothingisreal.com> on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @05:56AM (#40014709) Homepage
    Publishers and other IP holders would flee the US in droves. Hollywood and Silicon Valley would cease to exist as world centres of filmmaking and software development, respectively. Without the obscenely long protection period afforded by current copyright and other IP laws, major publishers would no longer consider it profitable to arrange for their works to be produced in the US. They would instead move their operations to countries with IP laws favourable to their monopolies. Perhaps a better thought experiment would be if most or all countries cut their copyright and other IP terms simultaneously. If just one of them does it all that will do is hurt their competitiveness in the international IP market.
    • Why flee? We'd get to copy it freely in the US, and they'd get long copyright protection elsewhere, regardless of if they stay or go.

    • Hollywood - World centre of the film industry - no, more movies are made in Bollywood than Hollywood, and the largest Film producer in the World is Nigeria...

      Silicon Valley is likewise overhyped, more innovation is done outside than in ...

      They do however make more money than the same industries outside the USA, simply because of IP laws and IP lawyers ...

  • by clang_jangle (975789) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @05:58AM (#40014715) Journal
    What if Spartacus had had a Piper Cub?
  • IIRC, there was a study done which concluded that 14 years was the more or less optimum time period for most intellectual property as a protected monopoly and such. Assuming this is true, I would move the number to 10 years and place the property on a yearly auction/property tax. After which, the owner must declare a sale price, and pays a small proportional property tax for every year it is not sold. If it the property is crap it will be put in public domain forthwith by declaring $0 in value for year 1
  • ...have had their intellectual property expire in less time than that, now they are just AI.

  • by Jacek Poplawski (223457) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @06:14AM (#40014821)

    Well.. it also means that after 5 years your photos are not your anymore. So please now image photos you made 5 years ago, they could be used in the anti-diarrhea commercial! Isn't this cool?

  • There is no question in anyone's mind that the way things are and the way they are expanding has created monstrously big "IP" industries. Monsanto, **AAs, Microsoft, Oracle, Big Pharma and on and on. And in each of these big cases, it is easily observed that these monsters harm the industries they are in at the expense of their competition and the public at large. And what enables this to happen and to grow are intellectual property laws.

    Were there such a drastic change would these goliaths wither up and

  • by subreality (157447) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @06:20AM (#40014859)

    ... and therefore free to use for any purpose without having to distribute the source.

    • by fbjon (692006)
      Wouldn't it be more correct to say that some parts of Linux would be in the public domain? If a person contributes today, doesn't that contribution enjoy copyright protection on its own, regardless of the original release by the original author?
  • Fixed term across all industries is unreasonable. Instead I would suggest having patents awarded with industry specific time limits, but very short ones. Also, if you apply for a patent in a specific industry, the patent only protects you from commercial efforts in that industry sector. Add to this a ramp up cost. The first term is free. The second term costs $X, where X is industry specific. The third term costs 2x$X, and it keeps doubling from there. You can extend a patent as long as you want to, but the
  • by coldmist (154493) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @06:26AM (#40014897) Homepage

    I saw the title and was already afraid of how the post was going to be worded. Within reading the first 2 sentences of this article, I was cringing.

    If you can't express yourself properly, nobody will take you seriously, and you won't win any intellectual argument.

    Let's reword the title: What if Exclusive Intellectual Property Control Expired After 5 Years?

    See the change? Intellectual property (or IP as everyone calls it) has existed, exists, and will exist forever. The exclusive control (with a few exceptions) over reproduction, distribution, etc is a limited monopoly granted by copyright and patent law, where the exclusive control lasts for a finite time. The authority to do any of this is in the US Constitution, but only in the simplest of terms. In order to change it, for all intents and purposes, one needs only to get (or buy) legislation--not amending the constitution itself--to change the rules of the game.

    And, even this monopoly is a modern creation. Historically, most of all the worlds best music, paintings, etc were produced under patronage, where a wealthy person would pay the creator (which might include letting the person live on his estate, etc) to make a work for him. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patronage#Arts [wikipedia.org]

    Now, on to the real reason of your article: What if this exclusive control period was reduced to 5 years.

    I have looked at this for a long time, and I have come to some conclusions myself. Let me share my conclusions.

    My personal opinion: Patents have never had their duration period expanded. They are still 20 years. Why? Patents benefit companies/corporations for the short term for the original purpose -- to prevent a competitor from 'stealing' the idea and mass-producing it, reducing your rewards -- in the short term, but it is in their interest to get access to the IP in the long term. So, it's "naturally" limited in that sense. If one company got all patents lengthened to 100 years, they wouldn't be able to use a competitor's ideas either for 100 years.

    But copyright is another matter. In this case, it's publishers (today) against the consumer. There is no "natural" limitation in the sense that to a publisher, the consumer is just another lowest common denominator revenue target, and not a competitor (that they want to 'limit') nor a high-value content producer that they can exploit. Once you see this, you see how they try to get copyrights extended to 'one day short of forever' (can't remember which liberal congressman said that recently, but one did) so they can abuse/extend their monopoly against 'us' if you will, with the content they already control.

    For copyrights, there is no 'natural' competition to keep the game honest. So, will your 5-year period ever happen? Not without a revolution.

    Now, as to your 5-year period. It's too short. It takes 3-6 years to get a product, like a new car model or a new CPU architecture, or a new DRAM standard, etc into production and into the market. With a 5-year exclusive period, it could be over before a company can make any money on their 'creativity' and a competitor could steal their thunder quite easily. For copyright as well, it could take 2-5 years to produce a movie, and they lose control of it in the same time as it took to make it? That makes it too short, as it could dissuade creative people from even trying to write/produce content.

    But, the current 120-150 years is a joke. The US founding fathers struck a good balance: An initial 14-year copyright term, with an optional 14 years if the author is still alive and deemed it 'worth it' to pay the fees to extend it once more for another 14 years.

    Since most books only have a single printing, the first term is long enough to motivate people to 'produce', while it's short enough that if it doesn't work out as the author intended, then the public can extend the idea on their own. It's the porridge is too cold/hot problem. There has to be a bal

    • Intellectual property (or IP as everyone calls it) has existed, exists, and will exist forever.

      Ah, that explains the restricted use of tools to single geographic areas in the stone age, and the (C), (TM), and (Patent Pending) found on every cave painting...

      My mind has combined these glyphs to share an idea with your mind. The basis of humanity is the sharing of information. The concept of "copying" is the very MECHANISM of ALL LIFE -- Constructing meaning and order from chaos, AND SHARING IT MOST PROFUSELY is life's core principal. To assume otherwise is quite ignorant...

      To assume that it's soci

  • What if... (Score:4, Funny)

    by VortexCortex (1117377) <VortexCortex@Nos ... t-retrograde.com> on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @06:37AM (#40014973)

    What if laws were vetted as if a theory or hypothesis via the scientific method?

    What if, instead of blindly applying a blanket of legal rules, hoping for the best while ignoring the possibility of failure, we tested laws such as these on smaller samples of the country to prove the hypothetical benefits?

    What if the country were segmented into regions whereby people could examine these different legal statuses and vote with their feet?
    Why, we could call the regions having differing states of law: "States"

    What if, instead of relying on only law making bodies and ultimately upon pompous pontifications of the elite "supreme" ruling clas--er... court, we also had a law unmaking body which could call for re-testing of the theories to adjust to changing socio-economic realities via examination of real world evidence?

    What if basic proven scientific methods were applied rationally to government?
    I know, I know... rational thought and government, oil and water... yes... but WHAT IF?!

    I mean, its not as if the human society of the World isn't already doing such an experiment using countries as the legal boundary regions. Letting states enforce their own civil laws would only accelerate the process of legal evolution. What if, instead of trying to force a single unproven set of rules upon the entire world, we let each country compete on socially beneficial rules and let the best laws win?
    What if, indeed.

  • by Tom (822) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @04:33PM (#40022003) Homepage Journal

    Stop playing, look at the real world we have markets where ideas can not be protected at all. The fashion industry is the most famous example, but there are quite a few.

    Don't play hypothetical what-if when you have examples to guide you.

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